If you have been arrested for any crime, you are probably scared. This is a very scary and stressful experience. You will need the best criminal defense lawyer you can find. As improbable and unthinkable as it may seem, innocence is not the big factor in a lot of cases. In the United States, nearly 10,000 people are convicted of serious crimes that they did not commit every year. More than 300 convictions have been thrown out when new DNA evidence was revealed, this all since 1989. It has been estimated that approximately 3.944 years have been served in prison by innocent people.
Finding a good criminal defense lawyer may seem like a daunting task but it should not be. Here are some tips to make that easier.
- Talk to the people in your life that you trust. Across the United States, there are at least 70 million people who have a criminal record. The statistics for how many African Americans are arrested every day is incredibly high. Given all of that, the chances are high that you know someone who has been arrested. Who did they use for their criminal defense lawyer? How did they find them and what did they think of working with them? You may not hire the same person but this can help point you in the right direction.
- You want a lawyer who cares. If your criminal defense lawyer is just phoning it in, you will have problems. You need a lawyer who really cares about your case and the outcome. When you are taking to different lawyers, ask why they went into criminal defense.
- Make sure you get a lawyer that specializes in your kind of case. You would never consider going to a cardiologist to help with your broken leg, you do not want to go to a sex crimes defense attorney when you need a murder defense lawyer. There are a lot of sub-specialities that live under the “criminal law” umbrella. Now, many criminal defense lawyers do handle more than one kind so if you know they are a good DUI defense attorney, they still may be able to defend you against your marijuana charges. Just ask about their experience and track record dealing with your kind of case.
- Get a good negotiator. There is one other factor that you have to remember, most cases are not decided in the courtroom. Approximately 96% of all cases end in a plea. The reason this is important is that people who go to trial and do not win often get much harsher sentences than they would have received with a plea. When you are picking a criminal defense lawyer, you need a lawyer who has a lot of experience negotiating.
- Ask about the whole team. Your case will be handled by more than one person. Ask about who will be on your team. Who will be available to answer the questions you have when you have them? Will you be able to speak to the main criminal defense lawyer or will is always be the legal assistant? You should be comfortable with your legal team, you do not have to love everyone who will work on your case but having a decent comfort level is important.
- Ask about the fees and payment structure. All law firms have different ways of managing their billing policies. Some law firms will want an up front payment and some will let their clients pay the bill over a period of time. Make sure you are clear on what you will be charged, what it is for and how you will be expected to pay. Reputable law firms have very transparent billing policies so if you find one that is not adhering to that, go someplace else.
- Can you talk to past or current clients? As much as possible, you should look into the law firm’s references. It may not be realistic to talk to clients who may not want to talk about their criminal experiences but do what you can to check references.
The criminal justice system is scary. A good criminal defense lawyer will help make it easier to handle.